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Garbanzo checks all the boxes: fresh, fast, nutritious

Amid the construction at Arsenal Yards in Watertown, a new, Mediterranean quick-service spot opens with Halal certification.

Chicken plate with tabbouleh salad and pita from Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh in Arsenal Yards, Watertown.
Chicken plate with tabbouleh salad and pita from Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh in Arsenal Yards, Watertown.Sheryl Julian

Where to Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh in Arsenal Yards, Watertown (formerly Watertown Arsenal).

Why The evolution of this former military base on the Charles River, with its beautiful 19th-century buildings, is fascinating (full disclosure: I lived in the Arsenal as a girl when my career US Army dad was stationed there). Watertown Arsenal was established in 1816, designed by Alexander Parris, the architect-engineer who oversaw Quincy Market in Boston and the Bullfinch Building at Mass General, and worked on the US Capitol. Until recently, one end of the Arsenal housed a mall while the other saw gracious parties at the historic home that was the commanding officer’s quarters, now Commander’s Mansion. The area’s new life as Arsenal Yards is in full construction mode, with restaurants and retails shops open, hotels and residences to come. Branch Line and Panera Bread were already established well away from the construction. The new area includes Shake Shack and Chipotle Mexican Grill, Frank Pepe Pizzeria, Ben & Jerry’s, and City Works brewery. Buttermilk & Bourbon, from chef Jason Santos, is expected to open its second location there this year.


The Back Story Garbanzo franchisee Derek St. George is part of a group that signed a five-location deal in the Boston area. The first is on Boylston Street in Back Bay, a third is being negotiated in Woburn. The fast-casual concept has locations around the country near college campuses and in airports. All dishes are based on Mediterranean menus with very fresh ingredients, vegetables chopped before service, pita made and baked daily on the premises, meats cooked to order.

Falafel bowl with hummus and tabbouleh.
Falafel bowl with hummus and tabbouleh.Sheryl Julian

What to Eat The bowl-plate-sandwich system is in full swing. You choose a protein (the food here is Halal certified) and how you want it, so, for instance, you can get falafel in a bowl with hummus and tabbouleh, sprinkled with cilantro sauce. Seasoning in the crispy balls and sauce has been toned down (everything here needs a boost in the seasoning department), but you get a solid rendition of hummus and a little crunch in the grainy salad. Grilled chicken or steak offers diced poultry, chicken or beef kebab has chunks of meat threaded on skewers with peppers and onions. A traditional gyro is a big, juicy, meaty, satisfying roll-up. That freshly made pita is nice, thick enough to be a good pocket. Ask for it to be well baked. House fries and chips are exceptionally crisp.


What to Drink Sodas, juices, and waters you’d expect.

Traditional gyro with garbanzo chips.
Traditional gyro with garbanzo chips.Sheryl Julian

The Takeaway Garbanzo menu items are tame versions of traditional Mediterranean and Middle Eastern specialties, but you can taste the fresh quality of the ingredients and nothing from the grill has been sitting around. Also, points for very courteous counter help. (If Ana waits on you, you get smiling eyes behind her mask.) 41 Bond St., Arsenal Yards, Watertown, 617-744-0607, www.eatgarbanzo.com

Sheryl Julian can be reached at sheryl.julian@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @sheryljulian.